Summer means it’s time to put that grill to work. But it doesn’t have to be all hamburgers and hot dogs. Take a look at some tasty, out-of-the-box ideas that will let your grill get a little more action.
One of the things I love the most about non-winter weather is cooking half of my meal (or more) outdoors. No, I do not camp, and I do not eat hamburgers every day. But we do take advantage of our shiny blue Weber Grill very often. For one thing, I feel like cooking some of my meal outside is somehow cheating the system. Somehow it seems like less work, less dishes, and usually tastier.
Does your grill only come face to face with burgers and dogs? Sure, they’re good, but that’s not all you can grill. Try these on for size, and let your grill get a little more action.
Most vegetables do well on the grill, but some stand out for my taste buds as being best: asparagus, corn, eggplant, onions, peppers, mushrooms, and even lettuce (yes, lettuce).
Plain Janes would just chop a few, toss them in olive oil, maybe add an herb or two, and grill them in a basket. There’s nothing wrong with that way of doing things, of course, but what about these ideas?
Corn: Soak your corn in water to keep it from being too flammable — 30 minutes should do it. Prepare a garlic butter (melt some butter, salt, pepper, and garlic salt in the microwave, stir in some grated Parmesan cheese). Peel back the husks, but do not remove them. Take the silk out, spread on the butter, and put the husks back in place, tying them at the top (I just use a piece of the husk to do this). Grill for 15 minutes.
Mushrooms: Prepare a “rub” with the following ingredients: sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, basil, a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Put all of the ingredients in to your food processor and pulse until you get a paste. Spread the rub on the mushrooms and grill for five to seven minutes or until tender.
Greens: You can make a show-stopping Romaine salad on the grill — YES YOU CAN! Check out these great step-by-step instructions, courtesy of Food & Wine.
Surprisingly, there is much you can do with fruit over an open flame. In fact, when you grill fruit, you eliminate most of the water, and the flavors are more concentrated because the natural sugars are caramelized. Forget the fruit salad or bowl of applesauce and light some charcoal for your fruit!
1. Harder fruits are easier to grill (apples, pineapples, pears), and the softer ones (peaches, plums, mangoes) will need a bit more attention.
2. Pick fruits that are almost ripe.
3. Cut fruits in half, removing seeds and cores.
4. Grill fruit over medium heat on a very clean grill rack.
Most fruits are just perfect as-is, but you can also consider some add-ons like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, brown sugar (be careful with this, it burns easily), or even alcohol.
Want an idea? “Marinate” some pineapple and peaches in a mixture of rum, cinnamon, brown sugar, and nutmeg. Grill then serve over vanilla ice cream. Or grill up some plums, puree them, add them to tomato sauce and jalapenos for a delicious, fruit-based BBQ sauce. Serve this over some meat that you, YES, grill!
Grilling meats and fish
I know I just lost all of you vegans and vegetarians, but I can’t very well write about grilling and exclude the category that the grill was invented for, now can I?
Here are a few of my favorite meat-on-the-grill recipes that should get you using your grill in a little different way…
Beer Butt Chicken: Yes, you can cook a whole chicken on the grill! Guys especially think this one is really cool (and tasty). Try this recipe from allrecipes.com.
Ribs: We love ribs in our house, but I don’t JUST grill them. In fact, when I have, I find they are not as tender. Prep your ribs by cutting them down a bit (about three ribs per section). Wash, pat dry, coat the ribs with kosher salt, pepper, and rosemary. Place them on a rack on top of a cookie sheet, cover them with foil (but vent one corner) and bake at 300 degrees for three to five hours. When you’re ready to eat, light the grill, and “finish” the ribs there. Top with your favorite BBQ sauce. These ribs will fall off of the bone — a perfect crowd pleaser!
Fish: I love fish on the grill. A friend was recently visiting and taught me a great new (and impressive, I might add) way to grill your favorite fish. Slice three oranges and two lemons in to rings. Line them on the grill, almost making a dish for the fish. Sprinkle with lemon thyme or another herb of choice, add your fillet of fish, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and close the grill lid to cook. The fruit creates this heavenly smelling citrus steam that infuses the fish and comes out fantastic every time.
Tell me your favorite (and original) grilling ideas. I’m always looking for new ones!